Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 221

The recent voyage of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine across the Pacific to the west coast of the U.S., during which it allegedly shadowed three U.S. aircraft carriers, has generated some Cold War rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic. According to a weekend article in the Washington Times, the episode prompted one U.S. Congressman to call for a Congressional investigation of the incidents. The submarine involved was one of the several OSCAR-class boats attached to the Russian Pacific Fleet. These vessels were designed specifically to counter American carrier battle groups, and each is armed with 24 SS-N-19 supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers.

Russian naval officials called the Washington Times article both incorrect and provocative, and implied that it had been timed to create tensions just prior to the next meeting between Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and U.S. vice president Al Gore. They also threw out some disinformation of their own. The officials charged that there is no such submarine as the one named in the article, and they said that one of the carriers — the U.S.S Nimitz — could not have been tracked by a Russian Pacific Fleet sub since the American vessel was on duty in the Mediterranean. The Nimitz is currently in the Persian Gulf, but crossed the Pacific from its home port in Washington State earlier in the year. (Russian and Western media, November 24)

With the Russian Navy in such dire financial straits, most of its ships and submarines have been staying in port or in their home waters. Thus, the appearance of this submarine off the Washington coast is unusual but certainly not cause for alarm. The Russian fleet may be down, but it is not out.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.